Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff

Thank you for joining me for my stop on the blog tour for Pam Jenoff’s new historical romance, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach! And don’t forget to check out my giveaway — scroll down to enter… and good luck!

Last Summer


Summer 1941  

Young Adelia Monteforte flees fascist Italy for America, where she is whisked away to the shore by her well-meaning aunt and uncle. Here, she meets and falls for Charlie Connally, the eldest of the four Irish-Catholic boys next door. But all hopes for a future together are soon throttled by the war and a tragedy that hits much closer to home.

Grief-stricken, Addie flees—first to Washington and then to war-torn London—and finds a position at a prestigious newspaper, as well as a chance to redeem lost time, lost family…and lost love. But the past always nips at her heels, demanding to be reckoned with. And in a final, fateful choice, Addie discovers that the way home may be a path she never suspected.

My Thoughts:

I have really mixed feelings about this book. First, the positive: I thought the author did a great job conveying the feel of Philadelphia and the Jersey beaches in the 1940s. The street scenes and depictions of life in a summer beach town were very convincing. I really enjoyed seeing Adelia’s unofficial adoption into the Connally clan. This big, noisy Irish family just opened their hearts and home to her, and it was heartwarming to see this lonely, frightened immigrant girl find a place to fit in.

Likewise, the scenes set in wartime London were stirring, especially seeing the devastation of the Blitz and the danger of simply walking down a street, as well as the sad plight of war orphans and the courage of the war correspondents and soldiers setting off on secret missions. The risks and uncertainty add a sense of breathlessness to every interaction, and I liked seeing Addie find a place amidst the chaos and confusion, seeming to discover a calling of her own.

What worked less well for me was the romance, or rather, romances, that are at the heart of the story. To put it bluntly, I just didn’t buy any of Addie’s love interests. I found her actions and decisions confusing, and even by the very end of the story, I wasn’t convinced by her supposed motivations or feelings. Part of the problem may have been the condensed time frame of the story, covering about four years starting from when Addie is sixteen. An awful lot happens in that amount of time, including romantic entanglements that spring up almost instantly and some that seem to dissolve just as quickly.

For me, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach seemed over-plotted, and I didn’t feel that the emotional arcs built, but rather jumped from point A to point B (or even C). The romantic aspects of this book just didn’t gel, but I did enjoy the historical setting and the way the descriptions evoke a real sense of a by-gone era.

Find out more:

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

About the Author:

Pam-Jenoff-credit-Dominic-Episcopo-200x300Pam Jenoff is the Quill-nominated internationally bestselling author of The Kommadant’s Girl. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a master’s degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania. Jenoff’s novels are based on her experiences working at the Pentagon and also as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.

Connect with Pam:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


The details:

Title: The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach
Author: Pam Jenoff
Publisher: Mira
Publication date: July 28, 2015
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours

tlc logoFor further information, stop by TLC Book Tours to view other blog tour hosts.





I’m excited to be giving away a bookbag and finished copy of the book! Want to win? No fancy footwork required — just leave a comment below answering any one of these questions:

– What’s the best book you’ve read set during wartime?
– What beach holds special memories for you, and why?
– If you could live in a different period in history, what would you choose?

Extra credit: Do you follow Bookshelf Fantasies? Let me know in the comments if you follow me and how (email, Twitter, WordPress, etc), and you get an extra entry in the giveaway!

That’s it! I’ll do a random drawing on September 1st to pick a winner. Thanks for playing along!

(Sorry — US/Canada only this time around)

Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy


Today, I’m celebrating the release of The Mapmaker’s Children, a new historical novel by Sarah McCoy, and I’m delighted to be participating in the blog tour sponsored by TLC!

Mapmaker's Children


When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.

Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble

About the Author:

Sarah McCoySARAH McCOY is the  New York TimesUSA Today, and international bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; The Time It Snowed in Puerto Ricoand The Mapmaker’s Children (Crown, May 5, 2015).

Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and their dog, Gilly, in El Paso, Texas. Sarah enjoys connecting with her readers on Twitter at @SarahMMcCoy, on her Facebook Fan Page or via her website,


The details:

Title: The Mapmaker’s Children
Author: Sarah McCoy
Publisher: Crown
Publication date: May 5, 2015
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours

tlc logoFor further information, stop by TLC Book Tours to view other blog tour hosts.





Want to win a copy of The Mapmaker’s Children? No fancy footwork required — just leave a comment below answering any one of these questions:

– What’s your favorite historical novel?
– What historical figure would you love to see featured in fiction?
– What time period do you enjoy reading about the most in historical fiction?

Extra credit: Do you follow Bookshelf Fantasies? Let me know in the comments if you follow me and how (email, Twitter, WordPress, etc), and you get an extra entry in the giveaway!

That’s it! I’ll do a random drawing on May 20th to pick a winner. Thanks for playing along!

(Sorry — US/Canada only this time around)

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn

04_NOATS_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

I’m delighted to be participating in the blog tour ( courtesy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours) for the newest historical fiction release from Deanna Raybourn, author of A Spear of Summer Grass, City of Jasmine, and the Lady Julia Grey mystery series.

Publication Date: October 1, 2014
Harlequin MIRA
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn returns with a Jazz Age tale of grand adventure…

On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat’s wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father’s quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems.

With only her feisty lady’s maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear.


My thoughts:

Deanna Raybourn excels at creating strong, sassy heroines with a flair for adventure, who aren’t afraid to break from the confines of society’s expectations and seize life (and love) whenever they get the chance.

Poppy Hammond certainly fits the bill. After her dramatic exit as a runaway bride, Poppy is restless and yearning, knowing only that she needs more in her life. The nice man who helped her flee the wedding is someone she’d like to at least thank for his efforts, leading to an impulsive escapade in which Poppy winds up in Damascus under an assumed identity… right in the midst of political upheaval, treasure hunters, danger and intrigue. Definitely all the ingredients needed to please a girl seeking adventure!

Sebastian is a heroic leading man, insultingly misunderstood by Poppy to start with, only revealing his true character and capabilities to her over time, as they plunge from one dangerous situation to another, fleeing across deserts, hiding out in old ruins, and evading bad guys with a flair that would put Indiana Jones to shame.

As in City of Jasmine, the Middle East of the 1920s offers just the right combination of beauty, danger, and old-timey espionage thrills to make Night of a Thousand Stars a romantic, exciting adventure story. The politics and history of the region in that tumultuous time are well-explained, but never in a way that’s boring or instructional. Instead, the intrigue serves as an exhilarating backdrop to Poppy and Sebastian’s growing flirtation and affections, and the two play off each other marvelously, displaying the mingled exasperation and amusement you might encounter in an old movie à la The African Queen.

While Night of a Thousand Stars works as a stand-alone novel, characters from the author’s earlier works (City of Jasmine, the Lady Julia books) are referenced. There’s no reason that you couldn’t enjoy Night on its own, but if you’re so inclined, I’d recommend reading City of Jasmine (and its companion novella, Whisper of Jasmine) first.

Overall, I found Night of a Thousand Stars to be a fun, engaging, romantic read. If you’re a fan of romantic espionage tales, don’t miss it!

Other reviews:

Interested in Deanna Raybourn’s other books? See my previously posted reviews:
A Spear of Summer Grass
City of Jasmine

Buy the Book

Amazon (Kindle)
Amazon (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble (Paperback)

About the Author

03_Deanna RaybournA sixth-generation native Texan, Deanna Raybourn grew up in San Antonio, where she met her college sweetheart. She married him on her graduation day and went on to teach high school English and history. During summer vacation at the age of twenty-three, she wrote her first novel. After three years as a teacher, Deanna left education to have a baby and pursue writing full-time.

Deanna Raybourn is the author of the bestselling and award-winning Lady Julia series, as well as, The Dead Travel Fast, A Spear of Summer Grass, and City of Jasmine.

For more information please visit Deanna Raybourn’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.



With thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, I’m delighted to be able to offer a paperback edition of Night of a Thousand Stars (available to US residents only). Click the link below to enter:

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Blog Tour & a Giveaway: Sunrise by Mike Mullin


I’m thrilled to be participating in the blog tour for Sunrise by Mike Mullin. Thank you to Books With Bite for organizing the tour!

Sunrise is the third book in the outstanding young adult trilogy which begins with Ashfall and continues in Ashen Winter.


The Yellowstone supervolcano nearly wiped out the human race. Now, almost a year after the eruption, the survivors seem determined to finish the job. Communities wage war on each other, gangs of cannibals roam the countryside, and what little government survived the eruption has collapsed completely. The ham radio has gone silent. Sickness, cold, and starvation are the survivors’ constant companions.

When it becomes apparent that their home is no longer safe and adults are not facing the stark realities, Alex and Darla must create a community that can survive the ongoing disaster, an almost impossible task requiring even more guts and more smarts than ever—and unthinkable sacrifice. If they fail . . . they, their loved ones, and the few remaining survivors will perish.

This epic finale has the heart of Ashfall, the action of Ashen Winter, and a depth all its own, examining questions of responsibility and bravery, civilization and society, illuminated by the story of an unshakable love that transcends a post-apocalyptic world and even life itself.

My thoughts:

sunrise1Ashfall and then Ashen Winter blew me away, and I had high expectations as I waited for the release of Sunrise. Well, those expectations were absolutely met, and then some! Sunrise continues the breakneck pace of the earlier books, with non-stop action and unrelenting danger around every corner.

Alex and Darla make a formidable team, and as young leaders trying to create a new community, they face challenges both from external threats and from internal mistrust and dissension. The pair are remarkably brave and cool-headed, and despite their youth, they manage to organize their small community’s defenses as well as to provide a vision for the future that just may get them — and their loved ones — through the grim realities of the awful present and into a future that might actually contain hope.

There are some truly horrifying moments, and the danger is real and insidious — all the worse because the most life-threatening dangers come not from the natural disaster, but from human reactions in the aftermath. Practically no one comes through unscathed, but the fact that Alex and Darla manage to pull together a random group of people into a community with a future is astounding — and given how far we’ve come with these two characters, it’s also quite believable.

I’ve tended to shy away from YA series lately after feeling let down or not fulfilled by the wrap-up. In the case of the Ashfall trilogy, I can definitely say that it’s worth sticking with! This trilogy delivers in all three books. No filler, no slack, no let-up — all three books are detailed, tight, and compelling, and once you start reading them, it’s impossible to stop.

About the Author:

Mike MullinMike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really glad this writing thing seems to be working out.

Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. Ashen Winter is his second novel. His debut, Ashfall, was named one of the top five young adult novels of 2011 by National Public Radio, a Best Teen Book of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, and a New Voices selection by the American Booksellers Association


Don’t miss out on the awesome giveaway offered by Books With Bite! You could win a complete set of the Ashfall series!

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Blog Tour Info:

To buy Sunrise:


Want to read my reviews of the first two books in the series? Here are the links:

Review: The Time Tutor by Bee Ridgway… plus a giveaway!

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I absolutely loved Bee Ridgway’s debut novel, The River of No Return, which was released in 2013. (You can read my review here). And so… I’m incredibly excited to share two goodies today:  A review of The Time Tutor, a novella set in the same world as The River of No Return, and a giveaway of the brand new paperback version of The River of No Return!

9780698169081_large_The_Time_TutorIn The Time Tutor, we revisit the world of time travelers and their mysterious secret society The Guild, this time through the experiences of Alva Blomgren. In The River of No Return, we meet Alva as a woman of the world, running a house of ill repute with a secret basement holding all sorts of goodies from her travels through time. Alva is a strong, beautiful woman who interacts with the main character, Nick, but her role in the novel is as a supporting, secondary character. In The Time Tutor, we get to know Alva’s backstory and see how she becomes the person she is, breaking free of the Guild’s hold and finding a way to use her skills, brains, and power for her own purposes. The Time Tutor is short and to the point, so don’t read it expecting a lot of scene-setting or build-up. Instead, it’s a fast-paced story that includes passion, intrigue, deception, and of course, leaps through time. Some familiar characters appear in addition to Alva, but note that this is a prequel, so knowledge of the events of the novel is not essential in order to enjoy this novella. The Time Tutor works on its own, but of course its greatest appeal will be for fans of The River of No Return who are eagerly awaiting a new installment!

And now, a giveaway! Thanks to Plume Books/Penguin, I’m able to offer one copy of the brand new paperback edition of The River of No Return, which is scheduled for release on March 25th.


Gorgeous cover, right?

The giveaway is available for residents of the US and Canada only. To enter, click the link below.

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Good luck!


New release + giveaway: Board Stiff by Piers Anthony

I’m delighted to share the cover and synopsis of the newest fantasy novel from Piers Anthony:

Board Stiff cover

The 38th installment of the Xanth fantasy series will delight fans of the witty and comical style that only Piers Anthony can deliver.  Best known for his Xanth series, Anthony is the author of over 100 books and has had more than twenty-one novels hit the best-seller list.

Be careful what you wish for…

“I’m actually a smart girl who would make any man an excellent wife. But no man sees that. No man is interested in my mind or personality, just my whatevers. So here is my wish: I’m board stiff. I want Adventure, Excitement, and Romance.”

So begins Piers Anthony’s 38th Xanth novel, in which Irrelevant Candy, looks at her reflection in the water of the shallow well and sees luxuriant midnight black hair to her breathtakingly slender waist, matching dark eyes in a lovely face. A torso coming yea-close to absolute perfection. She was man’s desire. That was part of the problem.

And in the shallow magic of a wishing well, she asks her wish to be granted. Something happens. A sudden whirlwind surrounds her, lifting her up and ripping off her clothing. She is changing, somehow. Then she falls flat on the ground.

Literally. She has been transformed into a flat, stiff board with two knotholes for eyes.

What fun! If you’re a fan of fantasy, be sure to enter to win a print copy of Board Stiff! (Giveaway available to US residents only… sorry!)

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Roomies: Share your roomie stories… plus, a giveaway!

RoomiesBack in December, I posted my review of the wonderful new novel Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando. Roomies is funny, touching, surprising, and feels just so real… and now you get a chance to win a copy!

We all have a roomie story, right? Whether good or bad — or truly the roommate from hell — it seems like nothing is quite so memorable as trying to live with a randomly assigned stranger.

For me, my freshman roommate is a distant memory, someone I never saw again after we moved out of our teeny, tiny dorm room at the end of the year. I wrote a little bit about her already in my Roomies review, but here are a couple more nightmarish moments from my early college days:

  • Joanne was a super thin and very stylish girl who dreamed of becoming a model. And yet, despite being tiny, she insisted on buying jeans that were a size smaller than what she needed. One day I came back to the room to grab a textbook and she yelled, “Wait! I need your help!” She then lay down on my bed, since the zipper of her super-tight jeans would only budge if she was horizontal, and begged me to zip her jeans for her.
  • Joanne attracted boys like a magnet… and collected them as well. In each of her classes, she would zero in on some ultra-smart boy, flirt enough to get him interested, and then keep them around like her own personal puppy dog. We had a non-stop stream of nerdy boys who would show up in our room whenever Joanne needed help with studying or an assignment — her own private army of personal tutors/devoted slaves.
  • Joanne used our landline phone to call her boyfriend long-distance at all hours of the night or day… and then when the phone bill came, said she couldn’t afford her share, refused to ask her father (a cardiologist) for money because he’d yell at her, and then blamed me when our phone service got cut off because I wouldn’t pay her bill.

Those are my top roomie-from-hell stories. Fortunately, after freshman year, I moved in with the best bunch of people ever and made life-long friends who I’ll love forever! Don’t you love a happy ending?


Little, Brown is offering a copy of Roomies to one lucky winner (US residents only). Just click on the link to enter:

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AND, by offering this giveaway, I’m entered in a “Win One for You and Your Reader” sweepstakes! The prize is a Roomie survival kit/gift pack including earplugs, home spa essentials, a signed copy of the book, a special note from the authors, and other fun things—all packed in a shower caddy— one for me and one for one of my blog readers. Sounds amazing, right? Wish us all good luck!

Be sure to check out Sara and Tara’s appearances on their book tour starting next week:

  • January 12, 2014 – New York, NY: McNally Jackson [venue link]
  • January 15, 2014 – Salt Lake City, UT: The King’s English [venue link]
  • January 16, 2014 – Provo, UT: Provo Library [venue link]
  • February 4, 2014 – San Francisco, CA: Books Inc, Opera Plaza [venue link]
  • February 5, 2015 – Petaluma, CA: Copperfield’s Books [venue link]

What’s your best or worst roomie story? Share your tales of woe or joy in the comments!

Happy Blogoversary to Me! (Plus, a Giveaway for You!)

One year ago today, I posted my very first post on Bookshelf Fantasies. Et voilà! A blogger was born.

77d0f78da9ba5b4e712efec660e73f7dWhen I started Bookshelf Fantasies, I truly had no idea what I was doing. I knew I wanted a creative outlet. I knew I wanted to write about books. I knew I enjoyed posting reviews on Goodreads. I jumped into blogging mainly just to see if I could pull it off. Would I have enough to write about? Would anyone care?

And here I am, a year later, and I’m loving it!

First and foremost, I want to send a sincere THANK YOU to all of the lovely people who have taken the time to visit, to comment, and to offer tips and encouragement. When I started my blog, I had only the vaguest inkling that there was an entire blogging community and that blogging is really a two-way street. I hadn’t thought much beyond the idea of writing and then hitting the “publish” button. What I’ve learned in the past 12 months is how many terrific, generous bloggers are out there, writing and producing amazing content, and offering friendship and connection all at the same time. I didn’t expect to find an online community, but I truly feel that I have — and I am so grateful!

Because I’m a numbers geek, I get a big kick out of playing around with my stats. (That doesn’t sound dirty at all, does it? Maybe I should spice things up a bit…) Here’s what’s happened at Bookshelf Fantasies in the past year:

  • 383 total posts! That doesn’t mean that I post every day (honestly, I don’t) — but apparently, there arestone-figure-10541_640 days when I’m feeling prolific!
  • I’ve written 104 book reviews.
  • I participated in 50 Wishlist Wednesdays and 30 Top 10 Tuesdays.
  • I started two of my own regular weekly features and invited others to join in. So far, there have been 12 Thursday Quotables and 40 Flashback Fridays.
  • I’ve written 35 posts in the category “The Reading Life”, about anything and everything in the life of a reader.

It tickles me pink and polka-dotted to realize that just this past week, Bookshelf Fantasies received its 10,000th page view!

I checked to see which posts had the most views, and it’s a weird mix — really, a smattering of everything. Here are the top 10 posts viewed the most this past year:

  1. Maps of Fictional Worlds — a silly little round-up of cool maps of places like Narnia, Westeros, Middle Earth and Alera.
  2. My one and only giveaway to date, as part of Armchair BEA. People love free stuff!
  3. Top 10 Favorite Characters in Epic Fantasy Fiction
  4. Breed: Lingering Questions (spoilers!)
  5. Flashback Friday: Flowers for Algernon (I think a lot of my visitors for this post are high school students looking for help with their essays, googling things like “themes in Flowers for Algernon”. Tsk, tsk. No cheating!)
  6. Book Review: Ocean’s Surrender. This one isn’t a mystery — the author shared the link on her Facebook page!
  7. A photo montage in honor of The Diviners. Photos of flappers are fun.
  8. Top 10 Books On My Summer TBR List
  9. Top 10 Super Long, Super Funny, or Just Plain Super Awesome Book Titles
  10. A Monster Calls: Review and Reflection

Of the posts I’ve written, my own personal favorites are some of the more personal ones, including: on that thankful note, I’ll say it one more time: THANK YOU to all of you who’ve cheered me on, stopped by to visit, offered book recommendations and blogging tips, and most of all, just brightened my day with your own smart, funny, insightful words. I’m so happy to have met you all!

Onward I go! Another blogging year awaits! Year one of Bookshelf Fantasies has been a blast. I can’t wait to see how the next year turns out!

Giveaway time!

To celebrate the 1st anniversary of Bookshelf Fantasies, here’s a giveaway to say thank you to all you nice folks! Enter below to win one of two $10 Amazon gift cards! (You’ll need to click the link – the giveaway widget opens in a new tab or window.)

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Armchair BEA: It’s a Giveaway Day!

Updated May 31, 2013: The giveaway is now closed. It was quick and fun — thanks for joining in! I’ll be reaching out the winner later today.

Day 3 of Armchair BEA is a fun one… it’s a giveaway day!

Enter to win a $20 Amazon gift card! What better way to start your reading summer than by getting to pick WHATEVER YOU WANT??

Thanks for stopping by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Click the link below to get started. Good luck!

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